SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Her Olympic dream began at the age of nine and now 23-year old Juanita Webster-Freeman is moving closer to making that a reality.
The Santa Barbara Track Club rising star is competing this weekend at the U.S. Olympic track and field team trials in the heptathlon in Eugene, Oregon.
As always Juanita is battling more than just her competitors on the track.
She has Asperger's syndrome which is part of a broader diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Among other things social interactions and nonverbal cues can be difficult.
"It's really hard to connect to people on the outside world so I have to really put on a mask and try to be normal because I am not normal I am actually different and it's ok," said Webster-Freeman.
But she shines on the track where the high jump and javelin are two of her strengths in the heptathlon which consists of seven-events.
She qualified for the team trials in May even though she is still rather new to the heptathlon.
"Juanita is by no means even scratched the surface of what she is capable of if she were to as we say in the sport put it all together," says Santa Barbara Track Club Executive Director and Head Coach Josh Priester.
Juanita first saw the Olympics on television as a kid and now she wants to make it for herself and for others who have autism spectrum disorder.
"We don't have that many resources for people on the autism spectrum and honestly the little help that we have from people is a really big thing," began Webster-Freeman. "I am one of those people that is going to be big for people for me."
Freeman-Webster joined the Santa Barbara Track Club three years ago and she would love to join fellow heptathlete and club member Barbara Nwaba as Olympians.
Nwaba competed in the 2016 Olympics and is a mentor for Freeman-Webster.